This is about insidious nomenclature. Some history:
Marijuana’s proper botanical name is cannabis. Generations ago, criminalization was facilitated by associating the plant with Mexican immigrants, by adopting their slang, marihuana.
After medical marijuana took root in California in 1996 (RIP Dennis Peron), a rhetorical vacuum appeared. A term was needed to distinguish medical marijuana from non-medical, and “recreational marijuana” appeared. Since then, I have winced at its growing use in the media and among policymakers, and admired its avoidance by people such as Steve D’Angelo, who urges the term, “full adult” marijuana.
The basis for my objection is that the term, like marijuana itself, is a slur, a term of denigration.
It denigrates marijuana consumers by declaring all non-medical marijuana use “recreational,” implying that they use it only for fun, when the truth is far different.
We know. We’ve heard parents and adult children describe how it brought them together, after years of alienation. We all know people like writers and artists who use it vocationally, to stimulate their imagination. Some, it helps overcome procrastination.
Carl Sagan, the astronomer, famously asked, “What’s wrong with using a drug that produces serenity, insight, sensitivity and fellowship, qualities so desperately needed in this mad and dangerous world?”
Nothing there about recreation. And recreation is hardly something we need more of.
Legalization isn't about hedonism; it's about not arresting people.
The word "recreational" does not appear in the law enacted by the voters in 2016, nor as revised by the legislature in 2017, nor in the CCC draft regulations. It belongs in no town bylaw.
By the end of 2018, as supervision of the medical marijuana program is merged into the CCC, the distinction between medical and non-medical marijuana will fade as a regulatory matter. For several more years, there will be separate cash registers in the dispensaries opening their doors to all adults, as card-carrying patients won’t have to pay sales taxes. Soon, however, the hassle and expense of maintaining a card will exceed the expense.
For now, the best term for non-medical marijuana is “marijuana.” One slur is enough.